Not long after I returned home from the hospital, I noticed a pain in my chest, near the lower part of my ribcage.
“Maybe you pulled a muscle,” said Precious, which might have made sense if I’d actually moved since I’d been home. The most exerting (is that a word?) thing I’d done was spread a quilt over my feet and reach for the remote. Active I was not after four days in the hospital and a mandate from the doctors to stay put. They probably didn’t mean I couldn’t leave the couch, but I am a literalist at heart and I wasn’t taking any chances.
“Maybe,” I said, both appreciating my husband’s tendency not to overreact and simultaneously needing him to freak out on my behalf.
“But it hurts to breathe.”
Because we had not sought help immediately when I started feeling bad earlier in the month and thereby ended up in the hospital, we vowed not to make that mistake again. So we consulted my primary care doctor, who said she also suspected a pulled muscle but would x-ray just in case. We got word it was pneumonia before we even made it out of the building. I’ve never had pneumonia before, so I didn’t realize that it’s actually painful. Yowza. More antibiotics.
(WARNING: If you are squeamish about the female nether region, run for your life. Or just skip to the last paragraph.)
Then about a week later, I noticed an intense itching in my privates. Seriously scratchy. And my skin was flaking off like those little balls of rubber cement you roll up after you’ve been acting a fool with the arts and crafts supplies. It made me want to cry out like when you were a kid and your mother ripped the Band-Aid off the abrasion you got when the Doberman from down the street yanked you from your banana seat bike and you fell into a puddle of gravel. Yes, like that. I was scared to look, but I did, and then I was really scared and really grossed out. I grabbed some antibacterial cream and started googling.
Shortly thereafter I convinced myself I had Norwegian Scabies (FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY DO NOT LOOK THIS UP!) and that I had gotten it from the hospital, having already suspected they didn’t change my sheets often enough.
For the next day or so I continued to slather creams of varying consistencies on the affected areas, hoping my discomfort would go away. It did not.
Back to the same walk-in clinic where we had gone when this saga first started and we were told I had the white blood cell count of someone who was receiving chemotherapy and that I needed to get to the emergency room immediately.
I’m not a sexist (gender-ist?) about doctors, having had both male and female along the way, but I must say I did request a female this time around. I told her about having been hospitalized for neutropenia and then added, “Something’s wrong,” I said. “You know, down there.” I lowered my head for effect.
“I’m pretty sure it’s Norwegian Scabies.” I think I was whispering.
“Let’s take a look,” she responded, snapping on a pair of blue latex gloves. She might have been smirking but I can’t be sure because I was too busy planning my lawsuit against the hospital for having unsanitary conditions that resulted in my contracting this rare and embarrassing disease to notice her facial expression.
One beat, two.
“This is easy. It’s a yeast infection, most likely as a result of all those antibiotics you’ve been on for the low white cell count.”
“You mean it’s not Norwegian Scabies?”
“No,” she said. “Whatever that is. I’ll give you a prescription for some cream and you’ll be fine.”
She did and I was, although for weeks afterward I continued to wonder about each ache and every itch. Eventually, though, I stopped obsessing and gave up googling. We’re all healthier for it.